Leveraging market research to yield positive results for your business

Every company has data, but not every company uses it wisely — or even at all. And that can be a critical mistake, says Kelly Manderfield, chief marketing officer at Cleveland Metroparks.

“The knowledge gained through data can be extremely valuable when it’s deeply analyzed and incorporated into your decision-making process,” says Manderfield. “Doing the research, and making use of it, can have a direct impact on your business’s bottom line and result in significant cost savings. You have to invest up front, but doing so will yield more positive results.”

Smart Business spoke with Manderfield about how leveraging market research to make data-driven decisions can help your business reach its goals and beyond.

Why is it important for organizations to gather data, analyze it and use it to make decisions?

Using data to help inform decisions can have a direct impact on a business, on revenue return and on cost savings. You may think you know your target audience and what motivates them, but what you think may not be what your audience actually thinks. It’s critical to get feedback and use it to influence what you are doing in your business not only for revenue but also to continue to improve the customer experience.

Sometimes companies will include research as part of a process, but that’s only the first step. Analyzing consumer feedback is equally important in helping to identify strengths and opportunities and providing actionable improvement strategies. Ultimately, these insights put an organization in the best position to make informed decisions. Once an organization starts to see value in the information it is collecting and how it can help in what you’re trying to accomplish, that data becomes much more valuable.

Data and research are one piece of the larger process; a company’s leadership is still going to take a number of things into consideration to inform decisions. And if, after considering the data, you decide to go in a different direction, you still have that data to look back on to determine if the decision was on point.

How can an organization begin mining data?

Ideally, an organization can invest in staff dedicated to collecting and analyzing data. However, if it is unable to do so, an agency partner can help identify and understand your target audience and what resonates with them.

A less-expensive option is to form a volunteer online panel of both customers and noncustomers whose members will provide information about who they are and who will periodically complete surveys to provide data about price points, activities of interest, branding, etc., of your business. An online panel can be managed internally, without the expense of a third party.

Companies are often surprised by the amount of data they already have, and by what new data reveals. You may assume you know what someone is willing to pay, but what they are actually willing to pay is quite different — and you may be underpricing your goods or services.

How can having that data change your perception of your business?

In addition, the data can uncover things you’ve never thought to focus on, or things that you should change. Getting that crucial feedback allows you to improve, or at least be aware of that way of thinking to consider a course correction.

It also gives you a baseline of what trends are occurring within your business, because sometimes when people respond to surveys, their answers might not fully reflect how they will take action. Having that information allows you to see the difference between response and action, and then respond accordingly.

Even a small business just starting out can, at the minimum, survey clients and potential clients to get baseline information about its target audience and how it’s perceived in the marketplace to set its priorities. If you move forward without that intelligence, you are not setting yourself up for success.

INSIGHTS Strategy is brought to you by Cleveland Metroparks